DEAL introduces Thunderdome in which Govites battle for housing

DEAL is set to introduce an innovative approach to the town’s perennial housing crisis – a Thunderdome in which residents do battle for an affordable home.

The Thunderdome, to be built on the outskirts of Nhulunbuy by yet another interstate construction firm promising local jobs, will be governed by one simple rule – ‘two enter, one leaves…with an asbestos-free* (*conditions apply), Rio-owned unit of your choice’.

It is expected that Imparja will secure the rights to broadcast live Thunderdome contests and also a lucrative Saturday night highlights package.

“There’s nothing I like more than watching impoverished plebs batter each other into submission for my entertainment,” said one well-to-do local who asked to remain anonymous.

Some employees from sectors other than mining and government were dubious of the plan.

“Right, so it’s not enough that I have to take out a mortgage to fly in and out of my hometown, that I have to wait 6 weeks for Winellie to regurgitate my mail or that my career prospects are dependent on my ability to look enthusiastic when I hear ‘clean-up on aisle 3′,” said young person Miyala Marika.

“Now the only way I can secure sensibly priced housing is through brutal unarmed combat.”

“The region’s decision-makers couldn’t show me any more contempt if one of them came ’round and shat on my dining room table.”

It is understood that DEAL may have once toyed with the idea of offering a small number of reasonably priced units to local residents who expressed a desire to remain in the region post-curtailment, and continue to plow their below average wages into the local economy, but as that would likely infuriate estate agents and their alleged burgeoning list of businesses falling over each other to relocate to the region, it was decided that the Thunderdome plan was slightly less stupid.

Yorkshire celebrating Valentine’s Day two days late now cards are 50% off

Valentine’s Day two days late to take advantage of 50% off deals on flowers and chocolates.

Supermarket chains have marked down unsold heart-shaped boxes of confectionery, pink helium balloons and huge pastel teddy bears, leading to frugal northerners cashing in by delaying the celebrations to get the best deal.

Yorkshire valentines is well-known as an attractive mix of romance and parsimony.

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Somewhere…just north of a song

Set amidst the rugged splendor of the Australian Outback, two fun-loving drifters, Singing raconteur Phil O’Brien and ex Jailbird Al Zimdahl come across a French beauty ‘Elisa’, alone in the middle of nowhere, and on a mission to find what she really wants out of life. A gifted Singer and musician, the bright lights of Paris and her Fathers business caused her disillusion, and she’d thrown herself into the empty vastness of the Northern Territory hoping to find answers.


Dear robot Santa…

David Fagan, Queensland University of Technology

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the editor of New York’s The Sun newspaper to ask whether her friends were right to say there was no Santa Claus.

Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

Her letter prompted one of the most famous newspaper editorials in history, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

A modern-day Virginia’s smartphone is probably more capable than Santa of knowing what she wants for Christmas.

Read more: Ten tips to make your holidays less fraught and more festive

So, how long before Siri and a network of artificially intelligent successors (programmed to anticipate human needs and communicate with each other) usurp Santa and start asking the alternative question: is Virginia real?

In the spirit of the New York’s The Sun (which no longer exists, sadly) this reply from a newspaper editor (if they still exist in the future) to a robotic Santa is set in 2047, 150 years after Virginia asked the question that is part of Christmas folklore.

December 2047

Dear Santa,

Your friends are wrong, affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age where they believe their “intelligence” can anticipate every thought and match it with an action.

It’s true that you machines, invisible but ubiquitous, have trumped our natural intelligence through your endless, silent buzz with each other. It began in the 2010s with Siri, and ultimately reached your level of apparent omnipotence.

But don’t forget. Somewhere (often remotely) at the end of every action, you are serving a human. In your case, it’s a little girl who wants to keep believing in the mystery and magic of Christmas.

So in answer to your question: Yes Santa, there really is a Virginia.

Don’t forget. The Santa whom children believed in has always seen all and known all – just like you.

He has always had helpers to create the gifts and magic of his story. Now, the workshops are run by bots, and the elves have become marketing assistants who no longer know how to wrap a gift, let alone guess what a little girl might want.

And the reindeer, freed from training for their annual epic flight thanks to your army of drones, have gone to fat. Even Rudolph with his nose so bright can no longer guide himself to the food trough, let alone a sleigh tonight.

Santa, you’ve asked what this is all about, what is your purpose? And precisely, is there really a Virginia or is she, as your robotic friends say, the toy of a personal bot she has had since birth?

The personal bot boom of the 2020s, then the development of belief and philosophy by your robotic predecessors in the 2030s, was always going to lead to you asking this question.

Fair enough. In earlier times, we humans would have asked ourselves why we were helping a machine think about its purpose in life. In fear, our instinct would have been to instantly cut off its power. Now we’re flattered you asked.

Thankfully, we accepted how machines like you could do the heavy physical and mental lifting that for centuries has been the burden of humans.

We regulated your limits but gave you rights. Now our minds and bodies have been freed from the strains of earlier times, sparing us to concentrate on living good lives, rather than productive lives.

But, Santa, the good human life well lived starts with fantasy, as one of our predecessors, New York’s The Sun, explained to children 150 years ago.

The power of fantasy describes where the work you do every year comes from.

But the fantasy does not belong to the other bots you talk to. The fantasy belongs to the child they serve. Such fantasy allows something unexplainable to create universal joy, an emotion you can understand but never experience.

And those fantasies are what will create new ways of meeting human needs. Such fantasies led people to dream of, then create, the first robots with only a fraction of your capabilities. Such fantasies found ways to power the planet without damaging it.

Your question about your purpose reminds us that such fantasies continue to matter – even to machines like you that learn effortlessly from us and each other.

But Santa, there is one fantasy you should not have. And that is that the little girl who craves a doll or a toy car like they used to drive in the good old days doesn’t matter. Or that the little boy who craves a toy kitchen or inflatable ball is subservient to the personal bot your “elves” listen to.

No Virginia, Santa? She is real – even if not to you. And you are real to her, not as a machine but as a magical figure that sees all and knows all – just as you always have, long before Siri.

She and you live forever. A thousand years from now – nay, 10,000 years from now – you and what you stand for will continue to make glad the heart of childhood and children like Virginia.

Yours, Ed

The ConversationThanks to veteran journalist Francis Pharcellus Church, who penned the original editorial in New York’s The Sun all those years ago.

David Fagan, Adjunct Professor, QUT Business School, and Director of Corporate Transition, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Office staff terrified after dyslexic co-worker organises Secret Satan

A group of office workers have succumbed to the nameless dread of the damned today after their dyslexic co-worker inadvertently organised a Secret Satan event for Christmas.

The annual event, which, is intended to be ‘a bit of a laugh’ and help staff bond over a few cheap mystery gifts with the possible opportunity for harmless flirting, has instead resulted in a river of blood and nightmarish visions out of the corner of the eye.

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“It’ll snow on the Sahara before we lower rents”, pledges real estate agent

Artist’s impression of a real estate agent

Real estate agent, The Eternally Puissant Annabelline Stealmore-Lifeblood, has boldly claimed that it’ll be a bloody cold day in the Sahara before considering reducing the unfeasibly high rents.

Stealmore-Lifeblood, who lists Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab as a favourite bedtime read on her Faceache page, made the bold claim that snow would lie over the Sahara desert before she considered the community and its long-term prosperity above her desire to claw in more money and hold court over decent folk with low to average incomes and families to support.

After a thick fall of snow blanketed the famous desert overnight, scientists who were asked to explain the phenomenon suggested that “Stealmore-Lifeblood is such an anathema to both God and nature that both have suspended normal operation to fuck her over”.

When asked if they were expecting any long term effects from the snowfall, they confirmed that they had observed a permanent increase of pressure in the dangerously throbbing vein just above her temple.

“Oh shit”, the potty-mouthed panjandrum and denizen of despair exclaimed when told of the snowfall.

“Shit, shit, shit”,  she continued.

“I didn’t think it would actually snow in the desert.”

“What would Selwyn Raab have to say? I will be seeking illegal advice” she added.

Stealmore-Lifeblood later confirmed that rents would remain at the current obscenely inflated rates while her interests remained compatible with the dying town’s iniquitous overlords, all the while silently encouraged by a toothless and passive community.

Still, if nothing else, we can run pictures of the snowfall in the desert and say it proves there’s no such thing as global warming.


Northern grandmother gets sprouts on

A GRANDMOTHER in Lancashire has begun boiling the vegetables for her Christmas dinner.

84-year-old Blackburn resident Susan Traherne prepared the sprouts and cabbage last night so she could get them boiling first thing this morning.

Confirming that the saucepan was now simmering, she said: “There is a simple rule with veg which I learned in domestic science class during the war – two days boiling per ounce, plus an extra week to be on the safe side.

“If you cannot eat them without putting your teeth in, then they are raw as far as I am concerned.

Mrs Traherne explained that after the vegetables had been cooking for 12 days she would drain off some of the water to add to her gravy.

She said: “I will then thicken the gravy with cornflour until it is solid enough to be sliced with a bread knife.”

'Brien Collection

Holy Mackerel by Phil O’Brien – Final

Basically the next week saw me and Steve venture out, but it was just too rough and we’d come chugging back again. This frustrated Steve, for he was born to catch mackerel, but not only that, he had to fill his 3-ton freezer with fillets to cash up. The coffees got stronger, the unspoken silences got longer, and the ecosystem at the back of the boat waited patiently. This was the life of a fisherman, an honest, simple life. In between near-death experiences, you drank coffee, read Playboy, and waited.

Then Steve sat out on the bow one day in the tartan deck chair and must have cracked the right frequency because the wind dropped. It didn’t drop much, but enough to give us a go at it. Next morning, after a cuppa that made me hair spike straight up like the quills of an Echidna, me and Steve headed out and took up the challenge!

The sea was still rough and life-threatening and terrifying and stuff like that, but not quite as bad as it had previously been. This time we made it out a bit further and there were plenty of mackerel around, also plenty of sharks, hammerheads, tigers, you name it. They were comin’ in from everywhere. They’d obviously worked out it was easier to grab the mackerel once I’d already hooked them, because with every fish I caught, it was a battle.

The sharks chompin’ relentlessly at the mackerel. Quite often I just pulled in a head minus the body and it wasn’t uncommon to see a mackerel launch itself out of the water with a shark totally airborne, right up its backside. It was an awesome display. I even had sharks attacking the outboard on the dory, but as time goes on, you get quicker and I started to beat the sharks a bit, not all the time… but a bit.

Every now and again I’d get a glimpse of Steve shooting along the horizon, one with the dory, Clancy of the Overflow, wheeling the lead of a mob of brumby mackerel. Born and bred to the sea, Steve was great to watch. He’d club them, cut their throat and with a flick of the wrist have the lure back in the water ready to go again.

So the routine thus evolved: catch fish, go back to the boat, fillet, clean, rest, coffee, catch, go back to the boat, fillet, etc.

There was plenty of mack action, shark action… and ‘bowel’ action.

A month had nearly gone by. My nervous system was like shredded bits of cabbage, but I managed to still function. Steve never said too much but we were putting a few fillets away, and that was the main thing.

One morning after downing possibly the strongest coffee known to mankind, which, by the way, would have made the balls drop on a jack donkey, me and Steve set out into the black jungle of roaring swell at the pre-dawn. As usual Steve disappeared straight off and I threw me two lines out praying to God to let me survive another day. After singing livin’ and workin’ on the land I noticed the wind had picked up even more and it was lookin’ serious again.

As first light shared itself with us ocean dwellers, I could see I’d accidentally drifted in a bit close to a fairly shallow reef area. Steve had warned me several times not to get anywhere near this area as the swell sucks right up there due to the reef and then just dumps, so virtually the water would go from under the dory and you’d be smashed by the overfalls. I was still a ways off but it was something to watch.

You Can Always Find Someone To Have A Beer With! The Phil O'Brien CollectionThen Bang! Me line went off… some huge mackerel no doubt and it jerked my dory around. As I went to pull it in, it took off and the last thing I wanted to happen… happened. The line got tangled around the prop and stalled me motor. It all happened pretty quick, the mackerel was going crazy on the end of the line, which was wrapped good and proper around me propeller. I didn’t react for a minute, then I looked around and I could see the white water from Steve’s killer reef was looming and the current was taking me straight for it, and fast. I couldn’t believe it, but that’s the sea for you.

Things happen quick and if you’re not sharp enough, it’s the food chain, no questions asked.

Steve appeared out of nowhere like a torpedo and yelled ‘get out your anchor or you’re dead’ and then disappeared into a wave. I dived for the hatch that held the anchor… it had no less than fourteen wing nuts holding it shut.

Nothing like trying to undo fourteen wing nuts with about 45 seconds left on the clock before you get smashed on a reef … and then torn apart by sharks.

Steve shot past again, but I didn’t hear what he yelled. I was too focused on the wing nuts… just trying to be nimble. With about one second up me sleeve I got the anchor out and it pulled me up just short of the overfalls crashing down on the reef. And it was fair dinkum, one of the closest calls I’d ever had.

For a moment there, I thought my time on the planet had run out.

Steve was in the horrors, yelling out all sorts of instructions, roaring up and down in his dory, the poor bloke. He knew the dangers only too well. I think if something had happened to me, I figured I was definitely replaceable, but no way could Steve afford a new dory.

With a nervous system now totally fragmented, I cut the line free from the outboard, pulled up the anchor and got out of there.

But that was it for me, I’d run me race.

That little episode shook me up… I was hangin’ up the handline!

In these conditions I was on borrowed time, I was thinkin’. So when we fought the swell and got back to the boat, I laid my cards on the table. I told Steve straight out, That’s it. I’m not goin’ out there again… wild horses couldn’t drag me.

I expected a blast of don’t be so weak….this is what fishing is all about … So I braced myself ready for Steve’s verbal spray. Anyway, I couldn’t hack it, so I deserved it, I’m thinkin’. But Steve reckons ‘yeah, mate, fair enough. If you’re not goin’ out there, I’m not either’, he reckons. ‘Been shittin’ meself the whole time’, he reckons… ‘Never worked in anything this bad before’… he also reckons.

Well, once again, you could have knocked me over with a piece of paper bark. I’ll be buggered. One whole month of thinking I was gunna die at least twice a day in conditions that I thought were the norm for fishing.

Well, anyway, we sat out on the bow, had a laugh and a coffee Steve had whipped up, strong enough to blow the sock off a world war 2 war veteran, with a wooden leg… and we chewed the fat.

Steve had taken chances because of his financial situation; otherwise he wouldn’t have left the yacht club bar, in this weather. I’m thinkin’… I wished we’d had this conversation a month ago.

So Steve made enough out of the fish we’d caught to get himself going again, and I headed bush, vowing never to go anywhere near the sea ever again, not even a fish and chip shop.

This last month couldn’t really be technically described as an adventure that got me absolutely nowhere because I’d learnt quite a bit from Old Steve, and it was good to see a bloke like him in action. He was a real master mariner, no doubt about it.

Later that same year Steve nearly came unstuck himself. Fishing back up the Wessells, a shark stuck its head straight up through the floor of Steve’s dory. It apparently was charging after a mackerel, miscalculated and rammed the bottom of the wooden dory, coming right through the floor. Luckily Steve’s new off-sider got over there quick and rescued Steve before the dory sunk. When Steve got back to the main boat he sat down and smoked a whole packet of ‘Winfield Red’, one after the other, and ate coffee straight out the tin.

So basically, in summary….if you’re looking for a little adventure, try something relaxing like catching Crocs or politics. Unless you’ve got totally nothing at all to live for, don’t even think about mackerel fishin’ – and that’s fair dinkum!

I’ll give you the big tip on that one.



You Can Always Find Someone To Have A Beer With! The Phil O'Brien CollectionPhil O’Brien (born 31 December 1930) is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Hawthorn in the Victorian Football League (VFL).

This story is an extract from Phil’s book ‘You Can Always Find Someone To Have A Beer With!’, a very entertaining collection of stories in the life and times of Outback Raconteur Phil O’Brien. Reckless, financially irresponsible and prone to bad luck, Phil OBrien has turned drifting around Outback Australia into an art form! Containing about 30 short easy to read stories [including pictures] this book will appeal to a wide range of readers, from city dwellers who enjoy an escape to country folk that will relate to the real-life events and characters. Also, travelers looking for a light read while in transit and overseas tourists looking to take home a genuine piece of Australian literature. Stories are based on Phil’s adventures across the Northern Territory, the Kimberley region and beyond.

Buy Phil's Book Now!

'Brien Collection

Holy Mackerel by Phil O’Brien – Part 2

The sea was violent all day, huge waves coming from all directions. It was like we were in a giant washing machine. Steve’s boat pitching and rolling, the two dories bobbing around bravely in the whitewash being towed behind the main boat. It was a very humbling experience, eating dry crackers and spewing me guts out every second wave.

By the time we reached the top of the Wessells, I felt like I’d just done a twelve-hour shift on a mechanical bull… in top gear.

My stomach didn’t know if it was coming or going… mostly going, but I made sure not to whinge or show any signs of faltering to Steve, because this is what fishing is all about. I thought, these are the conditions and I’m getting paid so I tried to just do my duty, thinking all this huge seas and stuff was the norm. Stick with it, I kept telling myself, Livin’ and workin’ on the land still playing over and over in my mind.

We anchored in a bay out of the extreme weather, although the wind would have still blown a dog off the chain, but the sea was a little calmer there, which gave me stomach a little reprieve. Steve ‘vibed’ on to Sea God in the deck chair on the bow and I prepared a few lines for the morning.

It looked like we were gunna give it a go.

Holy Mackerel by Phil O'BrienWell … 4:00am came around unbelievably quick and I woke in me swag on the deck, wind cuttin’ into me and nearly blowin’ the clothes off the make shift clothes-line on the bow. Steve was chafin’ at the bit. Kettle on, dories fueled up, he was that hyped up like he’d just been electrocuted by the toaster – and survived… he was wired.

So after a cup of coffee strong enough to put hair on the chest of a coral trout, we saddled up, and after some last minute instructions from Steve, who assured me he wouldn’t be far away, we chugged off in our respective dories, into a raging black wilderness.

Now I’ve had some nerve-wracking jobs before. I’ve caught crocodiles, mixed it up with crazy horses, had a gun pointed at me, but mate… you can multiply all that by ten and you still wouldn’t come near the fear involved in mackerel fishing.

We left the relative shelter of the bay and I immediately started to get buffeted by a wild sea, waves smashing into the dory from all sides. And as it was still dark, I couldn’t even see. Steve, who assured me he would stay close, disappeared straight away and I found myself bobbing around like a cork, singing all four verses of living and working on the land in full ‘soprano’. I honestly thought I’d be puttin’ the cue in the rack, cashin’ in the chips, you know… I wouldn’t be seein’ smoko. This was it. It’s over, Red Rover. I’d be hangin’ me shirts in ‘Davey Jones’ locker before I knew it.

First light started to glow from the horizon and I suddenly remembered why I was actually out there in the first place, and so I threw me two lines over.

Catching mackerel was definitely the last thing on my mind.

Staying alive was taking pride of place at the moment. I tried to keep the dory’s nose front-on into the biggest waves. If you copped one side-on, it would have capsized the dory without even tryin’. Then, as the sun came up, I caught a glimpse of Steve spearing down the face of a huge wave out in the distance. It was like a surfing version of the ‘Man from Snowy River.’ Then I lost him again.

Then Bang! One of me lines went stiff. Shit no! I’m thinkin’, all I need now’s a friggin fifty-pound mackerel to make life even harder!

So, like the well-trained fisherman I was, I sent the dory into a circle and patched up, getting smashed by waves and trying to pull the fish in, and this thing was fightin’. I finally got it up to the dory and lifted it in. It was a ‘Big Mack’ all right, and like I’d been taught, I grabbed the club and went to belt it on the scone. Waves were comin’ over the dory and I tried to concentrate, but I swung the club and the bloody thing slipped out of my hand and went into the water.

Now without a word of a lie, before I even had time to reach over and grab the club, a shark came up from nowhere… and fucking ate it!

You could have knocked me over with a mozzie coil.

Now you didn’t have to be ‘Jacques Cousteau’ to work out this had just put a completely new perspective on mackerel fishing. If a shark just ate the club-and it did-what the hell is going to happen if I go in the drink?

We’re talkin’ hamburger mince.

I’d gone into shock thinkin’ I could be part of the food chain at any minute, when all of a sudden, Steve emerged out of a wave, yelled get back to the boat, it’s too rough… and revved off. Well, that was the best news I’d had for a while. So back to the main boat we slogged.

Steve had caught a few, and I had my unclubbed 50-pounder. So we set about filleting them and within no time at all, a great collection of sharks, giant cod, trevally and even school of garfish had formed up at the back of the boat, competing for the skeletons and off-cuts of the mackerel being discarded into the water. Believe me… there was serious hunting and gathering going on at the back of the boat, trevally being bitten in two by sharks, cod the size of 44-gallon drums also giving as good as they got from the sharks.

It was a frenzy.

The garfish were even having a go, but suffering huge casualties.

They still zipped around but they did it tough. Anyone who believes in reincarnation, whatever you do, don’t come back as a garfish, I’ll give you the big tip.

So later that day, after a Steve’s special coffee that strong it would have put fire in the belly of a Himalayan snow leopard, we saddled up once again and chugged off in the dories, bound for Hell or high water… hopefully the latter.

The one good thing about fishing in the afternoon as opposed to the morning was the fact you could actually see where you were going. But now, knowing what lurked within the depths, ‘constipation’ was never going to be an issue again, not on this trip anyway, that’s for sure.


Read Final Part


Phil O’Brien (born 31 December 1930) is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Hawthorn in the Victorian Football League (VFL).

This story is an extract from Phil’s book ‘You Can Always Find Someone To Have A Beer With!’, a very entertaining collection of stories in the life and times of Outback Raconteur Phil O’Brien. Reckless, financially irresponsible and prone to bad luck, Phil OBrien has turned drifting around Outback Australia into an art form! Containing about 30 short easy to read stories [including pictures] this book will appeal to a wide range of readers, from city dwellers who enjoy an escape to country folk that will relate to the real-life events and characters. Also, travelers looking for a light read while in transit and overseas tourists looking to take home a genuine piece of Australian literature. Stories are based on Phil’s adventures across the Northern Territory, the Kimberley region and beyond.

Buy Phil's Book Now!

Holy Mackerel by Phil O’Brien – Part 1

The S.O.S came in the form of a phone call. On the other end of the line was the stressed-out voice of an old mate of mine, Steve Norman, the mackerel fisherman.

He was under the pump.

Things were tight financially and the only light at the end of the tunnel was to fill up with fish when the mackerel season started. He needed a good deck hand. He was up against it, plus I’m always the bloke they ring when there’s a job no one else wants to do. But what could I say? He was a mate and he needed help. Having had not much to do with the sea before, I thought, what the hell, catch a few fish, have a look around… yeah, count me in, I reckoned.

Now Steve was no ordinary mackerel fisherman. He had a relationship with the sea that went deeper than most. It was a spiritual thing with Steve. The sea was a living, breathing entity. It was alive. It had a voice, and thoughts, and it had moods. But above all, in control of the whole show, was THE SEA GOD.

Now this might sound far-fetched, but you have to take into account people that live and work all their life on the sea form certain views, and I suppose you have to respect that.

So Steve used to sit on the bow of his boat, go into a trance, chew the fat with Sea God, and hopefully get the good oil on where the fish are biting. Now I knew all this because another good mate of mine, Mark Johnson, worked for Steve a bit and he filled me in, but Mark had taken off to Indonesia… That’s how I ended up being roped in.

But old Steve was a good operator, Mark reckoned, tough, safety conscious, good humoured, reliable, and as well as all that, he had the added bonus of these visions where the fish were biting. What more could you ask for from a skipper?

Sounded good to me.

Holy Mackerel by Phil O'BrienIn the north of Australia the strong winds of the dry season ease off around September and that’s when Steve usually headed out to sea in search of mackerel, his bread and butter… But not the year I helped him. Steve heard the winds were going to drop off early this year. Now I’m not sure where he heard that, whether it was via Sea God or someone at the Yacht Club bar. I never found out but, as we steamed out in early August, waves breaking over the front of the boat, I’m thinking, if this is the wind when it’s dropped off, I’d hate to be around when it cranked up.

I went green and lost me bacon burger just as we passed the jetty. And for some strange reason that old song, Livin’ and workin’ on the land played over and over in my mind… Not a good sign, I’m thinkin’.

It was rough and getting rougher, but this was the good bit. About six hours later it was really rough… even for Steve, so we detoured in behind a pretty island called ‘Truant’ and sheltered in a lovely horseshoe-shaped bay. The place was full of dolphins, obviously hiding out in the bay as well. You know it’s really rough when actual sea creatures don’t go out in it.

Steve thought it was a good time to put me through some training before things got serious. Mackerel fishing, he pointed out, was a gentleman’s fisherie, nothing too high tech, it was a pretty old-style way of fishing and over the years hasn’t changed much… of course the mackerel still get belted on the head with a club and their throats slit, but it’s all very traditional, Steve pointed out.

Towed behind the main boat were two smaller craft, actually a fair bloody bit smaller. These little dinghies were called dories and you each head off in one of these and trawl a couple of lines out the back with lures attached. When you hopefully hook up a mackerel, you ‘patch up’. This means going around in circles trying to pull in as many macks as possible. In theory, it all seemed great and in the sheltered waters of Truant Island, it was fine, wheeling around in the little dory, going through the motions with Steve yelling instructions from the other dory.

There were no macks in the bay. That would have been too easy. They were probably schooling out in some rough-as-guts place, no doubt. So we just poked around for the next few days in the bay, did some maintenance on the boat, rigged up fishing lines, and basically, I worked on my dory-handling skills.

Truant was a fascinating island, turtles nested on the beaches at night in their droves. Also there seemed to be evidence of goats on the island as well. Apparently back in the old Captain Cook days, they dropped a few goats off on the islands here and there, so they’d have a few chops on tap next time they were in the area. Then there was the wreck of a trawler on one reefy point on the island. I don’t know the story there. I didn’t really want to find out, as I was trying to keep my confidence up a bit. Also birds and gulls of all denominations inhabited the island, not to mention the dolphins.

The dolphins were good operators. They’d obviously come to the conclusion they weren’t going anywhere in this weather and throughout the day, gangs of them would swim up to Steve’s boat and have a good old look at what the humans were up to. I’m not sure. Maybe Steve communicated with them, who knows?

But one sunset Steve sat on the bow, reclined back into his tartan deck chair, let his eyes roll back and tranced out. I watched the whole thing from the wheel house. Steve went deeper and deeper, letting out the odd mumble and even twitching a bit. I’d say at a rough guess he was getting some vibes. Whether he’d got through to Sea God, I couldn’t tell. For all I knew he was out with the dolphins. But I figured being a dedicated mackerel fisherman, it wouldn’t be long before Steve would forget about the weather and start chasin’ fish around.

And I was right.

The sea was in his blood, it was ingrown in his toe-nails, the sea was his church. Steve was just another living organism on the ocean, he was part of its ecology and when Steve dies, his parting wish would be, no doubt, to be filleted and boxed and placed in the chiller with his beloved mackerel…

With Steve it was a spiritual thing.

Early start, Steve reckoned, we’re gonna steam to the top of the Wessell Islands… get amongst them. Wind will be droppin’ off, he announced.

So next morning, we’re up and we’re gone.

It was early and the sea hadn’t had time to turn blue, it was still that gunmetal grey colour of the pre-dawn. I took one look back at the bay and the dolphins-they weren’t goin’ anywhere. They knew better.


Read Part 2


You Can Always Find Someone To Have A Beer With! The Phil O'Brien CollectionPhil O’Brien (born 31 December 1930) is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Hawthorn in the Victorian Football League (VFL).

This story is an extract from Phil’s book ‘You Can Always Find Someone To Have A Beer With!’, a very entertaining collection of stories in the life and times of Outback Raconteur Phil O’Brien. Reckless, financially irresponsible and prone to bad luck, Phil OBrien has turned drifting around Outback Australia into an art form! Containing about 30 short easy to read stories [including pictures] this book will appeal to a wide range of readers, from city dwellers who enjoy an escape to country folk that will relate to the real-life events and characters. Also, travelers looking for a light read while in transit and overseas tourists looking to take home a genuine piece of Australian literature. Stories are based on Phil’s adventures across the Northern Territory, the Kimberley region and beyond.

Buy Phil's Book Now!